Calif. Schools Employing Fewer Nurses, Librarians

From California Watch

California is issuing fewer credentials for public school service positions such as librarians, school nurses and administrators, and its schools are employing fewer service staff, according to a recent report by the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Mary Nixon is one of two school nurses in Trinity County. The number of school nurses in California has dropped 13.3 percent in five years. (Joanna Lin/California Watch)
The commission issued 11 percent fewer service credentials between the 2006-07 and 2010-11 school years. The number of people employed in service positions declined 9 percent during the same period, according to the report.

The findings [PDF], released last week, track credentials and employment in five areas: administrative services; teacher librarian services; school nurses; speech-language pathology, and clinical or rehabilitative services; and pupil personnel services, which include school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and child welfare and attendance workers.

School nurse credentials saw the biggest drops, with just 209 issued in 2010-11 – a 26.4 percent decline from 2006-07. At the same time, the number of school nurses employed in public schools fell by 13.3 percent to 2,474.

The number of credentials issued also fell by 19.1 percent for administrative services, 18.9 percent for school social workers and 10 percent for school psychologists. Except for school social workers, whose ranks rose 20.2 percent, schools employed fewer service staff in all these areas than they did five years ago.

While service positions saw a downward trend overall, the number of credentials issued in some areas has grown.

The 104 new teacher librarian credentials in 2010-11, for example, represent an 8.3 percent increase since 2006-07. But the decline in working teacher librarians was three times that figure: Just 895 teacher librarians were employed in 2010-11 – 339 fewer than five years earlier.

The same was true among speech-language pathologists: More credentials were issued, but fewer people were employed in these areas.

California awarded 504 language, speech and hearing credentials in 2010-11 – a 40 percent increase over five years. At the same time, however, the number of speech-language pathology waivers remains high, with 439 waivers issued in 2010-11. The commission issues waivers when there are not enough credentialed individuals to fill positions.

In fact, since 2006-07, only in the past two years has the number of speech-language pathology credentials trumped the number of waivers, the report found. Overall employment for speech-language pathologists fell 8.4 percent in the five-year period to 4,646.

Only school counselors saw an increase in both the number of credentials issued and employment. The 1,166 school counseling credentials issued in 2010-11 represented a 14.8 percent jump over 2006-07. California’s public schools in 2010-11 employed 8,201 counselors – a 4.7 percent increase.

The commission said the growing numbers of school counselors and school social workers, whose ranks climbed 20.2 percent to 417 in 2010-11, could be attributed in part to the Quality Education Investment Act of 2006. The act provides funding for the state’s lowest-performing schools to improve student achievement.

Still, the commission said, California’s student-to-counselor ratio remains among the worst in the nation: 49th in 2009-10, according to U.S. Department of Education data, with 810 students for every counselor. The national average at the time was 459 students to every counselor.

Joanna Lin is an investigative journalist at California Watch.

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